Archive for Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Regulations on tattoos may hamper blood donors

October 17, 2001

In the hours following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, thousands of people across the country rolled up their sleeves to help in the best way they knew how by donating blood.

Of course, with the increasing popularity of tattoos, especially among younger generations, many potential donors exactly how many nobody knows were likely turned away because of a not-so-known federal regulation.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for regulating and monitoring the nation's blood supply, prohibits people who have had tattoos in non-sterile conditions from donating blood within a year of getting a tattoo.

In addition, people who have had any type of body or ear piercing done in similar conditions within a year, are taking certain types of medications or taken part in other "risky" behaviors are prohibited from donating.

A FDA spokesperson said the conditions are minimum guidelines, but can be stricter depending upon the agency actually taking the blood donations.

A spokesperson at the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City, which is hosting a blood drive at Commercial State Bank in Bonner Springs on Thursday, Oct. 18, said its regulations follow the FDA guidelines.

However, exact rules regarding tattoos and piercings have caused some confusion among people in the industry.

A nurse at the Community Blood Center said potential donors are not allowed to have received a tattoo within one year, regardless of whether it was done in a clean and sterile environment. The regulations about donating blood do force the blood bank to reject some donors.

"Some of the places you go with a lot of young people, who are into that, you get quite a few you have to reject," the nurse said.

All blood donations go through a strict screening process, which includes tests for infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and AIDS.

Potential donors are also given questionnaires regarding any risky behaviors they might have been involved in during recent months.

Troy Butner, who works at the Dragonfly Tattoo Studio in Kansas City, Kan., said he doesn't know why people would not be allowed to donate blood after having tattoos done.

"I think it's pretty far fetched," Butner said. "Being in a clean and sterile studio, I don't really understand what all the hype is about."

Butner, who has been in the tattoo business for 10 years and has more than 40 tattoos adorning his body, said tattoos range from $50 and up depending on what a customer wants. Although he understands the need for regulations on blood donations, he believes people with tattoos are wrongly punished for partaking in the art.

Russell Bishop, known as "Uncle Russell" to customers at his Lawrence tattoo studio, Skin Illustrations, said people are able to donate blood within a year of having a tattoo in many areas as long as they can provide proof it was done in a clean and sterile environment.

In fact, Bishop said so many customers get tattoos and need documentation that sterile equipment was used that he developed a form letter for customers who requests one.

"We made up the letters and we've never had them turned down," Bishop said.

Bishop said Skin Illustrations employs five full-time tattoo artists, who each do an average of 150 tattoos per month for customers.

Mike Wade, one of Bishop's customers, said he can't count the number of tattoos he's gotten over the years. Still, Wade said he has donated blood within months of getting a tattoo.

Wade said the people collecting blood asked where he got the tattoo, but he never provided any documentation and was not denied the opportunity to donate.

"It wasn't any problem," Wade said.

For more information on how to donate blood in the Kansas City metropolitan area, call (816) 753-4040 or visit the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City's Web site at

For more information on the regulations regarding blood products and how they are tested, visit the Food and Drug Administration's Web site at

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